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OSCE Report Critical of Post-Election Process
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 19 Jan.'08 / 11:56

Vote tabulation at some precincts was “bad or very bad,” while some polling stations reported “unusually high” voter turnout, according to a post-election interim report issued by the OSCE/ODIHR international election observation mission.

The report, which covers the period between January 6 and January 18, confirms many opposition allegations and is expected to be used to press home opposition demands.

The international election observation mission (IEOM) observed the vote count and completion of results protocols at 180 precinct election commissions throughout Georgia.

“A significant 23% of counts observed were assessed as bad or very bad. Observers reported that in 8% of counts observed, they had witnessed tampering with results protocols. In 21% of counts observed, they reported significant procedural errors or omissions,” the report reads. “Data frequently showed inconsistencies; CEC staff informed the OSCE/ODIHR EOM that in around 940 of 3,511 PECs, the number of voters who voted did not reconcile with the sum of valid and invalid votes.”

The report described the tabulation process at the District Election Commission (DEC) level as “slow, not very well organized, and often chaotic.”

“There were cases in which PEC [precinct election commission] protocols given to the OSCE/ODIHR EOM differed from those provided by DECs,” the report reads. It cites, by way of example, protocols provided by Batumi, Lentekhi and Dmanisi DECs showing a significant increase in votes cast for incumbent candidate Mikheil Saakashvili.

There were cases, according to the report, where DECs corrected precinct protocols, despite the fact that the law does not explicitly allow for this. The Electoral Code, in fact, only allows for a limited DEC role in the vote tabulation process.

The report also says that in several DECs, voter turnout was considerably higher than the average - 56.19%; some 23 precincts reported 100% turnout, while another 205 precincts reported turnout of between 90% and 100%.

“A significant number of PECs reported unusually high turnout during the last three hours of voting. According to the information produced by the CEC shortly after election day and received by the OSCE/ODIHR EOM, at 79 polling stations, more than 500 voters cast their ballots during this period [the last three hours of voting],” the report says. It adds that “based on more complete information drawn from protocols now posted on the CEC website, as of 17 January, the number of such polling stations now stands at 45.”

The interim report also criticizes the handling of a large number of complaints by the courts and election administrations, saying that “there was an apparent avoidance to substantively consider complaints.”

The vast majority of these complaints were submitted by opposition parties and domestic election observer organizations, with almost none filed by the ruling National Movement party, which backed Saakashvili’s re-election bid.

“The election administration at all levels and the courts did not fully and adequately consider and investigate a considerable number of complaints regarding irregularities in voting, counting and tabulation of election results,” the report reads. “Some complaints included serious allegations of multiple voting, ballot stuffing, and tampering with protocols, with requests for annulment of a significant number of PEC summary protocols.”

“The OSCE/ODIHR EOM received accounts that law enforcement bodies, local administrations and courts actively discouraged observers and opposition supporters not to file complaints or suggested to withdraw them.”

The report also criticizes the Central Election Commission’s (CEC) way of tackling the few complaints filed by the opposition and observer organizations.

“It [the CEC] incorrectly refused to consider several complaints requesting annulment of protocols, on grounds that only the courts had authority to do so,” the report reads. “In addition, the CEC Chair [Levan Tarkhnishvili] incorrectly declared that the CEC did not have investigative powers. In one instance the CEC refused to review the official video recording of an alleged incident in a PEC, stating that the CEC had no authority to do so. However, in a 17 January statement the CEC announced that it was now ready to provide parties the opportunity to review video recordings of voting day procedures at polling station level, upon written request, although this decision comes after the deadline for the submission of complaints related to election results.”

The OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission is expected to issue its final comprehensive report on the January 5 election, involving pre-election, election day and post-election findings sometime in February.

In its preliminary findings and conclusions issued on January 6, the international observation mission said that the process “was in essence consistent with most OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and standards for democratic elections, [but] significant challenges were revealed which need to be addressed urgently.”

The OSCE/ODIHR said its latest interim report “should be read in conjunction with pre-election interim reports, as well as the statement of preliminary findings and conclusions.”

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